Hyundai Ioniq 6 review: makes you wonder why we bothered with internal combustion
What a sensationally good-looking thing this second car in Hyundai’s Ioniq series is, its four-door coupé styling reminiscent of the first Mercedes-Benz CLS which took our breath away in 2004, not to mention the svelte Streamliners of the Thirties.
So, think of the age of aerodynamic enlightenment (no, not 2004) when men wore hats, women wore gloves and veils, and cars were sleek and windcheating, as were trains and caravans. Designers such as Raymond Lowe, Buckminster Fuller, Carl Breer and Norman Bel Geddes set the trend for cars such as the Chrysler Airflow, Pierce Arrow’s Silver Arrow, the Embiricos Special Bentley and the Mercedes-Benz 500K Autobahn Kurier. None of these cars (nor contemporary trains or planes) were spectacularly aerodynamic, of course, as the science of windcheating was in its earliest stages, but all were simply lovely to behold.
Based on the same E-GMP architecture of the Ioniq 5 SUV revealed in 2018, might the Ioniq 6 be just a smoothed, art deco version of that car? Well yes and no, partly because the 5 has been tweaked and titivated since its launch, with new Frequency Selective Damping (FSD) to improve its parlous ride quality and a heat pump to retain more of the claimed range in very cold and hot conditions. A high-performance N version arrives later this year.
The Ioniq 6, you’ll be pleased to know, has the same FSD suspension and a heat pump as standard. It’s also considerably more slippery, with a coefficient of drag of 0.21 against the Ioniq 5’s 0.29.
Its officially quoted efficiency is 3.9miles per kWh, but if you calculate it from the 77.4kW useable battery energy it’s 4.3m/kWh, which is a useful figure indeed and means the range figures are comfortably above those of the Ioniq 5 although still below the most parsimonious versions of the Polestar 2 and Tesla Model 3.
There are a couple of versions of the Ioniq 6, with essentially the same lithium-ion polymer battery pack: a four-wheel-drive with front and rear motors giving a total of 320bhp and 446lb ft of torque; and a rear-wheel drive model with 224bhp and 258lb ft. The top speed for both is 115mph, the 4x4 will accelerate from 0-62mph in a blistering 5.1sec, the rear-drive version taking 7.4sec.
So it’s not surprising that the cheaper but slower rear-drive version goes further on a full charge, 338 miles against the 4x4’s 322 miles. Charging is up to 10.5kW on an AC street charger and the Ioniq 6 will charge up to 220kW on a DC fast charger with a CCS plug. A full charge takes 11.5 hours on a 7.4kW home wallbox and 1hr 13 minutes for an 80 per cent charge at a 50kW DC charger.
Prices start at £47,040 for the rear-drive in Premium trim, rising to £50,540 for the top-model Ultimate. The 4x4 starts at £50,540 rising to £54,040 for the Ultimate trim.
Is more really more?
But do you really need to spend an extra £7,000 over the base Premium trim rear-drive model to secure the Ultimate 4x4?
To some extent this question is self-answering. All models have 20-inch wheels and tyres, so what you get for your £3,104 more are furbelows such as automatically deploying door handles, driver’s-seat memory functions, ventilated seats, leather seat facings, a sunroof, blind spot monitoring, a head-up display, parking assist, a better stereo and LED lights on the steering wheel. In other words, a lot of stuff you could live without.
But there’s four-wheel drive, surely that must be worth the extra £3,500?
Hum. There’s a thuggishness about the most powerful EV cars on sale right now, which has been partly inspired by the absurd accelerative performance of the first Tesla Model S.
Chassis balance, control progression and steering feel mean little when you have such rapid acceleration that leaves your passengers’ stomachs behind (at least until the drivetrain overheats). In these circumstances, four-wheel drive and stability and torque controls will help keep it on the road and damn the battery longevity and passengers’ breakfasts. Driving all four wheels also gives you twice the energy recovery on slowing, but these are marginal gains against the extra expense and weight.
No, Hyundai’s Ioniq range isn’t quite as blunt an instrument as that analysis suggests, but you can see where this style of “more is more” thinking will get you.
Forget the art deco outside, the interior is attractive and well made although it echoes that of the Ioniq 5, but with a roof 11cm lower. Despite that, however, there’s enough head room for four six-foot adults, although those on the rear bench might find their hair brushing the headlining – leg room is generous in all the seats.
Storage space isn’t exactly at a premium, particularly the door pockets which are plain mean. The centre console is convenient and swallows phones and purses, but also leaves them in plain sight. The boot space is accessed via an odd-shaped boot lid, which makes it quite difficult to load stuff into the long yet shallow 401-litre space. There’s also a 45-litre wet box under the bonnet, although this is only 14.5 litres on the 4x4 version due to its extra motor at the front.
The dashboard is pretty much that of the Ioniq 5, with twin 12in screens for the central touch-sensitive item and instrument binnacle. It’s a clean design, for the most part simple and straightforward to use. There’s also an annoying customisable ambient lighting system, which is best switched off – as is the speed-related polyphonic note which rises in tone the faster you go.
On the road
From the off the booted Ioniq 6 feels better tied down than the Ioniq 5 hatchback, though that comes at the cost of ride quality. On any kind of surface other than a billiard table there’s a shivering, soft rhythmic impact into the small of your back as the wheels faithfully transmit every part of the road surface into the cabin. The 20in wheels are partly to blame; it’s strange there isn’t even an option of a smaller wheel with a taller-sidewalled tyre.
That said, once you reach even moderate speeds the damping calms and the steering is pretty good, with a decent weighting as you turn into a corner and even some feedback. You can dial in more sporting driving modes, but they simply feel as though the steering column got caught in the washing line rather than imparting any real sportiness.
The brakes, too, are well judged, with decent grab at the top of the pedal and progressive stopping all the way to a standstill. You can also alter the amount of retardation braking with the steering-wheel paddles.
As far as performance is concerned, this is one of those cars which leaves you wondering why we bothered with combustion engines at all. The accelerator pedal progression is progressive and refined so normal driving is an intuitive pleasure, but if you floor it the Ioniq 6 leaps forward at such a rate the car behind will quickly be transformed into a diminishing spec.
Of course, the rear-drive model’s acceleration from 0-62mph isn’t as fast as the 4x4 (and quite a lot of the opposition) but it feels well balanced and swift, while also providing a decent amount of battery range. Not sparing the horses on a fast A-road route around the Cotswolds on a warm sunny day, I achieved 3.3m/kWh, which would give a range of comfortably over 255 miles on a full charge.
The Telegraph verdict
The looks speak for themselves. For racier types, perhaps last year’s RN22e study shows how a souped-up, higher-performance Ioniq 6 N will look.
In the end, though, the elegant lines of the standard car will attract the most buyers. And in this rear-drive version of the Ioniq 6, there’s a progressive balance of control and performance that makes driving an absolute pleasure and has you wondering just how it might look parked in your driveway.
On test: Hyundai Ioniq 6 RWD
Body style: five-door, battery-electric coupé
On sale: now
How much? £47,040 to £54,040 (£47,040 as tested in rear drive 228PS Premium trim)
How fast? 115mph, 0-62mph in 7.4sec
Range: 338 miles
Charging: 11kW charger, 7.2 hours to full charge, 7.4kW household wallbox, 11.5 hours to full charge, 50kW DC charger, 1.1 hours to 80 per cent charger. 10.5kW on-board charger and 220kW DC fast-charger capability
Battery: 77.4kWh useable lithium-ion polymer with 800 volt charging infrastructure
Efficiency: 3.9 miles per kWh
Motor/transmission: AC permanent-magnet motor with a single step-down gear, rear-wheel drive
Maximum power/torque: 224bhp/258lb ft
CO2 emissions: zero in use, 27.5g/km well to wheels
Warranty: 5 years unlimited mileage, battery warrantied for 8 years/100,000 miles
Kia EV6 GT Line S RWD, £48,245
Last year’s European Car of the Year is one of the nicest EVs to drive and the rear-wheel drive version is the best, with a range of 328 miles. But it’s expensive compared with the Hyundai and if you want a heat pump (standard on the Ioniq 6) you’ll pay another £900. I also think it’s not quite as good looking as the Ioniq 6.
Polestar 2 long-range single motor, from £48,950
With an 82kWh battery and a total output of 295bhp/361lb ft, the Polestar has a range of 406 miles and will accelerate from 0-60mph in 5.9sec. One of our favourite EVs, with a respectable range, good looks and decent-sized interior, it runs neck and neck with the Hyundai in the cars-you-should-look-at stakes.